I think it's important for preschool classrooms to feel like "a family." It's important that we help children connect to a whole new community that loves and supports them. One way for this to happen more smoothly is to bring the child's own family into the classroom as much as possible - at least, figuratively! If you show honest interest and affection for the child's home life, you will begin to gain the child's trust and the family's support. With very young children, both of these - child's trust and the family's support - are important elements in establishing your new classroom community.
Every August, before the school year begins, I send families two special scrapbook/album pages to complete and create alongside their child. I complete them, too, about myself! When the child comes to school on that first day, we place these unique pages into a special binder - creating a classroom family album. I keep this special book out and available, in our book corner - at "the ready" for children to pour through. I got the idea of this book from Deb Curtis and Margie Carter, in their book "The Art of Awareness." The questions include:
What makes me happy?
What makes me sad?
What does my family like to do together?
What do I love to do?
What is something I want to learn to do?
Who is someone my family admires?
See, here are my two album pages, one about my family and one about me:
I love seeing children just happen upon it - and squeal with delight when they see their own family photos or those of a classmate! It is a fabulous tool for the child who is having a rough day - to be able to see who loves him, to read aloud his special memories.
Through the years, this book has become an intrinsic part of my teaching. These family pages help me choose some of the books and materials I use during the school year. At circle and snack times, I read aloud a special page or two - everything but the name of the child - to see if children can guess who I am talking about. It becomes a tool for getting to know each other better, for connecting us as one special classroom family.
As the year goes on, we have done math with the responses - setting up charts and venn diagrams, using the information written on the pages. For example, how many children have the same number of people in their family? How many pets do we have? Who has the most? The same? Which books, stories, and toys are their favorites? I've even used these family pages to begin or extend some of my storytelling at circle time, or to further a discussion about a special book - "Who in this class has a special dog cuddly toy, just like the boy in Dogger?". All these activities are very educational, and, simultaneously, help us to be more of a community! Yes, we are thinking and analyzing...but we are also becoming connected. A classroom family!